RCMP gathering 2,000 DNA samples in hopes of solving Manitoba girl's murder
RCMP are collecting up to 2,000 DNA samples from men in a remote Manitoba First Nation in an effort to solve the murder of an 11-year-old girl.
Teresa Robinson never returned home after leaving a birthday party in May, 2015. Her lifeless body was found six days later.
The investigation has remained active ever since, but police have yet to arrest a suspect.
This week investigators began collecting DNA samples of 2,000 men living in Garden Hill First Nation, located about 650 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.
“What is being undertaken at that specific community right now is something unprecedented,” Sgt. Bert Paquet told CTV Winnipeg.
All DNA donations are voluntary and are being sought from men between the ages of 15 and 66. RCMP plan to make five trips to the isolated community to gather the samples.
The unorthodox investigate approach has sparked renewed hope for Teresa’s mother, who says her daughter’s death has shattered her sense of security in the tiny community.
"Don't trust anybody. Don't trust anybody around here, even friends because we don't know who did this. People probably won't even believe who that person is when it comes out,” Sandra Robinson told APTN.
Police say the massive DNA sweep comes after traditional investigative approaches were completed.
"Once we've exhausted all other avenues of investigation, our officers start thinking outside the box," Sgt. Paquet said. "This was one of the steps that was considered."
He added that the DNA collection is one of several techniques used by officers assigned to the case.
"Our investigators have been, and will continue to, utilize all available resources and investigative techniques in order to solve this horrible crime and bring closure to the family and the community," Paquet said in a statement.
Police have not said how many men in the community have volunteered to provide a DNA sample, but they've said the response has been positive.
Band Councillor Larry Beardy is encouraging men in the community to step forward, and gave a blood sample himself.
Luke Taylor, whose son was beaten to death eight years ago in the community, has said he will also give a sample.
“Sad. I know how it feels -- the loss of a child,” he said.
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson said the community is desperate for answers in Robinson's murder.
"Could there have been another way, perhaps," she said. "But the community is so desperate for answers that we have to support what they want to see."
Teresa’s mother says she hopes the DNA collection brings about answers in the stalled case.
“A lot of people keep saying you gotta try and forgive that person,” Robinson said. “But I don’t know who that person is. I don’t know if I can do that.”
With a report from CTV's Jill Macyshon and CTV Winnipeg's Beth Macdonell